AbeBooks: Jokes, Hoaxes & Other Literary Frauds: Literary hoaxes, pranks and frauds have been around since the early days of the printing press. One well documented example was in the late 18th century when Thomas Chatterton wrote a number of poems and then claimed that they had been written by a 15th century monk named Thomas Rowley, and that he had merely transcribed them. Chatterton maintained the ruse until his death when scholars took a closer look and realized they were Chatterton’s work.
Pulling off a hoax of that magnitude requires gall and skill – and it doesn’t always succeed. In the early 1970s, Clifford Michael Irving tried to use a series of handwritten letters, that he had forged, to convince a publisher that he had an “autobiography” written by movie producer and infamous recluse Howard Hughes. The publisher jumped at the opportunity but unfortunately for Irving it turned out that while Hughes was reclusive, his lawyers were not and he found himself on the wrong end of a law suit rather quickly. Books offered as non-fiction but in reality are pure fiction are a common literary fraud.